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Councils overwhelmed by health guidance

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Councils and PCTs have been snowed under with guidance on reducing health inequalities over the past 12 years and evidence of the impact of the tens of billions of pounds spent is unclear, according to the Audit Commission.

A new report from the watchdog underscores that while general levels of health – including infant mortality and teenage pregnancy rates - have improved since 1998, health inequalities have actually widened.

Healthy Balance (see right) concludes that councils and health-service partners may have been on the recieviung end of “too much policy and guidance” to keep up with.

Andy McKeon, the commission’s managing director for health, said that while the national picture was one of improvement, local variations could be stark.

“Comparisons can be striking,” he said. “While teenage pregnancy drops by 38% in one town, it rises by 14% in a neighbouring town.

“Billions are directed to deprived areas. But it is not always clear how much has actually been spent on reducing health inequalities, and what the impact of this or that programme has been.

“Progress is often disappointing.”

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